I hate the word irony. It just sounds like something terribly mundane that possibly involves laundry. It is frequently misused and confused with coincidence, which is my second biggest wording pet peeve (If you ever say something about 9am in the morning and are within arms reach you should probably step back). Maybe the word irony gets under my skin so much because while I hate it as a word I revere it as a concept.
Irony is one of those things that surround us and is so ingrained into our culture that when we see it we often don’t recognize it. I am not just talking about the antiquated irony of hipster culture where people are pursuing counterculture for fashion, but the true irony of the world. Hearing “Christians” who celebrate a god that we born in a manger because no one would open their lodgings to him pontificate about how we should not accept Syrian refugees during a week were we celebrate the welcoming that Europeans received from indigenous people is the pinnacle of irony. But maybe it is coincidental because we did destroy those American Indians who welcomed us with open arms, so maybe I should cut people some slack for interchanging those two words.
Before I started doing comedy on a regular basis my domain was ironic wit. It was a wonderful area to explore, using my normal quickness to pull out the funny aspects of any conversation. It was so easy and fun, someone sets up the premise for me, others register and confirm their understanding of the premise and then I swing in with a quick quip to seal the deal and bring the conversation to a boil. That was my role in the group, I may not be passionate enough to pursue the conversation with conviction, and I may not be great at generating ideas, but I can put things together and tie a bow onto it faster than most, and whenever you bring laughter into a situation you become a welcome addition to a group. I think that many of my closest friendships have been started or fostered by my ability to make witty off the cuff comments, and I am perfectly fine with that.
Within my storytelling and comedy career my ability to notice irony and absurdities in the world is where I get most of my material. I notice something and sit on it for a while until it sticks wording and structure work themselves out. The key to this type of writing is that you need to embrace the ability to not only notice things that others will identify with, but that you need to repackage it and make it your own. Since comedy is often a monologue you are responsible for the setup, the meat of the joke, and then tying it together into a punchline while also dealing with timing, crowd interaction, and facing expectations which is infinitely more complex than simply adding on a quip.
We all have these constructs of what we expect, and when we see something that doesn’t fit it is either refreshing or jarring, think of it as the Bernie Sanders effect. Those moments where we are expecting someone to zig when they zag leaves us hanging and vulnerable. In football it is the pump fake, in fighting it is the feign, in comedy it is the misdirect, and I love all those moments. That is when you as the performer are completely in charge and as a control freak it makes feel powerful and fulfilled. As an audience member I love knowing that the misdirect is coming and having that anticipation of having the rug pulled out from under my thought process which always leads to bigger laughter than the punchline that you are walked right into.
My favorite part of irony is the absurdities of our world. Things are just so crazy and sometimes taking that moment to say “hey guys this thing is fucked up lets all laugh at it” feels great. It is especially validating when you know that you opened someone’s eyes to something that they have glossed over and that they will never see the world the same way again. Being that maker point for people’s journeys is one of my favorite things about writing or performing, and one of the motivators to keep doing it. I have one friend who constantly confirms this theory by reminding me of things that I pointed out or joked about years ago that he still remembers, which validates not only the theory, but my role in our friendship and my attitude in general.
Beyond it’s applications irony is just fun for me. I am totally against government, but in college every year I participated in legislative day where they thought it was a good idea to give me extra credit to visit with my state senator. It was like bring your anarchist to the capitol day and I reveled in the absurdity. In much the same way I did a comedy show in a church last night. While my comedy is pretty clean it isn’t exactly geared toward hardy Vermont protestants, but I had a great show and the church folks loved me which is especially ironic since I am agnostic at best.
Embracing the ironies in life is sometimes the only way to deal with things. Laughter is a great coping mechanism and being able to laugh at the absurdities and coincidences and whatever odd terms you want to add on make life a little less bleak. But I must say that embracing the stereotype of a writer sitting stone faced in a coffeeshop writing an essay about how to have more fun by embracing ironies is more than a little ironic, don’t you think?